Review Rewind: Sharpie-Dark Green Lakes

1,405. that’s how many local recordings have been reviewed in What’s Up! over the last 15 years. Some good, some not so good, all offering something to the local scene and in these pages. A review was and will always be a band’s chance to get some press and show folks what they are doing. If a band lives around here, or on a local label, we review it and have never turned anyone away if they met one of those qualifications. Among the recordings reviewed, a few really stood out for one reason or another – it might have been how good it was or the impact it had on the scene or the statement at that time. This issue, we re-reviewed 15 of our favorite records over the last 15 years (and included a blurb from the original review) and talked not just about the music, but why the recording is important in the music scene’s history. Every one of these recordings should be on your iTunes, find ‘em, listen to ‘em, love ‘em. We do.


April 1999: “The key to listening to this album is that it must be played loud. The higher the volume, the better. It wasn’t until I cranked the CD that I could really appreciate the power and force that is Sharpie. It sent chills down my spine.” –Brent Cole 


Sharpie is one of those bands that makes me wish I had been born a bit sooner, which tends to be the case for most music I get into.  They have that “weirdo slacker” vibe that makes you want to destroy the internet so we could all sit around going mad with boredom until the only logical thing to do is make explosive guitar noise and beat some drums to death.  I didn’t see Sharpie until 2010 when they reunited for Brent Cole’s birthday bash at the Wild Buffalo.  They were my favorite act of the night and luckily there was a copy of their album Dark Green Lakes in the KUGS music library, where I worked at the time.

Part of their appeal to me may be that they have sonic characteristics similar to Nirvana, the Toadies, Karp, and others of that late 80’s/early 90’s era but to me they’re still new and haven’t been over played, and they have hints of experimentation that keep it from being too stuck in that “iconic alternative sound.”  The chorus from “Skinny” often pops into my head, naturally with the parody lyrics “I’m getting dinner!”  “Chinese Dust Cloud” is another favorite whose vocal melody sticks to the noggin lining from time to time.  The guitars alternate between Fender-jangly clean and fuzzy, heavy warmth throughout this album, always with a lot of character.  The vocal leads are engaging, desperate, and make you want to listen to what’s being said (this is huge for me as I tend to ignore lyrical content by default).  As someone who often gets bored by anything resembling a singer-songwriter I don’t mind when the acoustic guitar comes out for lo-fi tape recordings on “Downtime” which is partially augmented by electric guitar.  The distorted bass and low lumbering riffs on “Eight Point Ohhh” and “Slag Heap Fire” feel good landsliding down the ear canals, and just add to the expanse of this album.  Sure it plays into that loud/quiet/loud thing but that’s what I like about it.  This album breathes, covers a variety of styles, and still holds my attention.

Of all the local albums I’ve snuck away with this album tends to pop up in my regular rotations the most and it has the highest play count for a local album on my computer. If only they’d join the other zombie bands of the last year (Fed X, Bali Girls) and remind us what music from the gut sounds like.

-Andrew Nickerson